The Armenian Genocide

By Arax “Roxy” Aslanyan, 2L

2015 marked the 100th year since the Armenian Genocide began, where approximately 1.5-2 million Armenians were premeditatedly and systematically killed by the Ottoman Empire. The genocide’s starting date is conventionally held to be April 24th, where the Ottomans killed the Armenians by severing heads, burning, drowning, torture, gas, poison, disease, and starvation. The Turk’s left hundreds of thousands of unburied bodies on their countryside.

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Those who were not killed were forced to walk through the desert without food, water, or shelter. They were attacked, stripped naked, and their clothing and bodies searched for any valuables. After being stripped, they were forced to walk in the heat of the sun until they could not longer continue and anyone who would stop to rest was beaten until they continued to walk. Those who were no longer able to walk were shot to death. Females were often raped, young women were abducted, tortured, and left for dead. Thousands of children were removed from their families and forced into denouncing Christianity and converting to Islam. Children were also given new Turkish names and were forced to endure painful circumcision that is required by Islamic custom.

A group of military officers and bureaucrats called “The Young Turks” established power in Constantinople (the Ottoman capital) in July 1908. Young Turk leaders consisted of Ottoman revolutionaries–the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), who took CUP and reformed it into a political movement. Young Turks wanted to expand the border of Turkey eastward across the Caucasus all the way into Central Asia and to continue with the annihilation of the Armenians. Young Turk leaders visualized a new Turkish empire that was not multi-ethnic and “Ottoman”, with only one language and one religion. However, Armenia lay right in the path of their plans to expand eastward, which was where a large population of Christian Armenians lived. In May of 1918, the Turkish armies returned to attack the Armenian. However, this time the Armenians were prepared to fight back with weapons. They were ultimately able to repel the Turkish invasion at the battle of Safarabad without any help from the outside world. Soon after the victory, Armenian leaders declared the establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia.

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Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” sometime around 1943-1944. Lemkin was a lawyer of Polonized-Jewish descent who took interest in the occurrences of annihilation towards the Armenians who were systematically and premeditatedly murdered. Genocide is the deliberate extermination of an entire race, especially those from a specific ethnic group or nation. The word genocide is rooted from the words genos (Greek for family, tribe, or race) and –cide (Latin for killing). The Armenian Genocide is recognized to have been one of the first modern genocides because the killings were carried out to eliminate the entire race. After the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide is known to be the second most-studied case of genocide. Unfortunately, Armenians have not received reparations for the money or possessions seized by the Ottomans. To this day, Turkish government still fails to acknowledge what began in 1915 as a systematic and premeditated chain of events that led to the genocide of the Armenians and have actively suppressed the term “genocide” to maintain silence.

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